So much not to say, see.

On Sunday morning I found myself curled up next to Jeff and thinking, "When did this stop being home?"

What was it over the course of four years that did it? There are too many culprits to select just one: friends, cats, mortgage, jobs. All. Nothing. Everything in between.

When I was last in Arkansas eight months ago for Dad's funeral, Arkansas still felt like home - a place I could return to at any time, and just resume my former life where it was left in 1998. When we drove in this weekend, we needed to pay attention to the radio stations to know where the construction zones were (as opposed to knowing from gossip and news broadcasts), and I actually missed the no-longer-new turnoff to get to the highway that led to my hometown.

I've never done that before. Ever.

In the dark of the night, past the reach of my headlights, I could picture the sinuous wave of sodium-vapor lights on 565 as it drifted northeast, even as my hands guided my car to my mother's almost without the help of my eyes.

Barring that one missed turn, that is.

In my mind, I could name the original owners of almost all of the houses leading to Tull, and I still felt my eyes pulling off to the right, attempting to sight grave markers in the pitch-black churchyard after crossing into the 'city limits.'

Since we've gone away, the pine trees that my great-uncle John planted in the bend of the road have grown far taller than me, and home became the little house in the little subdivision, even though it's not quite so far out of "town" as it was when we bought it three years ago. Holidays now include three families: my family, Jeff's, and the third one we've fashioned with our own actions. Holiday planning now means one holiday spent with my mother, one with Jeff's parents, and a third carefully-selected non-holiday weekend for gaming and general end-of-year festivities.

At last count, we're expecting enough of a geek influx that I think I'm going to need to learn how to roast a turkey this year. (Sotto voce to the geeks reading this: if 1) you aren't Brian or Suzan and 2) you're coming in from outside of Huntsvegas and 3) you need crashspace for the Pan-Holiday Extravaganza, it's high time you get in touch with me to make arrangements, as our guest bed has been claimed by the aforementioned Atlanta-ites.)

On Friday, I rooted for the Razorbacks, and Mom and I shared what could only be described as a bittersweet laugh over their snatching a victory from LSU when less than twenty seconds away from a defeat. Too many years of Dad's recliner-coaching had taught us well; the only thing we didn't know was—if he'd been there with us—would he have been informing the coach that he and his staff were "goddamn sonsabitches" (Dad's favorite epithet for when his coaching was superior to the actual coaches') or would he have just been snoring away in his recliner, long past the point of giving up on "his Hogs"?

We drove ... home. At least, that's what it felt like when I saw the "Welcome to Alabama" sign through the veiled haze of a headache-induced nap.

I hugged my cats, was fed by a friend, washed my clothes, and worked on adjusting once again.

I spent so much of my life so firmly rooted in the place that formed me that it's taken me years to create a version of myself that is capable of relating and functioning somewhere else. Even now, with so much tying me here - places and people that I have come to love - the call to home is still a siren song, seductive and sweet.

Even now, with the notes lingering in my ears, I know I have chosen.

Since a couple of you asked - a photo. My mother and my nephew are on the front row; my brother-in-law Carl, my sister, Jeff, and I are on the back row. My sister and I, minus the radical differences in haircuts, look more and more alike with every passing year.)


Heh, and you never thought that you could like this place. ;)

It took a long time, mostly because I wanted the same feeling of family and belonging that I had in the place where I grew up. Most of that time was spent realizing that the kind of family network I had was something extremely unusual - something that many people would give anything to experience just once in their lives. To expect it as the norm for the rest of my life is wishing for the moon. Our neighborhoods, cities, and lives just don't work that way anymore. Nevertheless, it's difficult to adjust if the kind of community I lived in was the only kind you've ever known. Anything else feels foreign, alien, and very, very lonely. It'll never be the same, but I've found a group of folk who certainly don't seem to mind the mothering.

Don't worry about the turkey, Ames. They're quite easy, if you're willing to give them a bit of time and I've got experience. I'll volunteer for turkey duty if necessary this year. :)

Turkey! Did you say turkey! I'd try the Alton Brown Turkey. It's damn tasty and the only recipie I use that involved a 5 gallon bucket. If you're planning for turkey at the Pan-Holiday gathering, I'm willing to help out.

If you want hassle free turkey, get a turkey cooking bag. Just throw stuff in, hurl it in the oven and forget for a while.

I still prefer the "bucket turkey" method. The only added difficulty is prepping the turkey the night before, but the bird turns out soooo much better. The best part of this turkey is the leftovers, which are never dry. Of course, we could always cook a ham.

I'll be in Connecticut. -cry-

You can add me to the list of non-attendees - ha, ha. :) But, if you need help with the turkey, the Tsark-turkey hotline will be open. :)